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Council of Canadians organizer Diane Connors at COP21 in Paris

Diane Connors at COP21

Council of Canadians organizer Diane Connors.

Edmonton-based Council of Canadians organizer Diane Connors is at the COP21 climate summit is Paris.

She is there as a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation. As noted on their website, “The Canadian Youth Delegation is a voice of the Canadian youth climate movement at international United Nations climate conferences. Made up of dedicated and inspiring leaders from across the country, the delegation represents the demands of a generation working to create a just, safe, and livable future for all. This year the Canadian Youth Delegation at COP21 has representatives on the Canadian Government delegation, inside the conference as a negotiating body and outside working with other civil society groups.”

In an interview with Edmonton’s Vue Weekly magazine, Connors explains, “We’re targeting the Canadian government and pressuring them to implement the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and also demanding for a just transition from fossil fuel dependence. We’re rallying for Zero Emissions by the year 2050. Outside the conference, we’re participating in targeting oil companies, or companies with big interests in the negotiations, and trying to be part of a movement that urges the UN to not accept those special interests over the interests of the common person.”

But despite having representation on the Canadian government delegation, they have been snubbed by the prime minister.

CBC reports, “On a day that was supposed to celebrate the contributions of youth at the Paris climate conference, a group of young Canadians stood before the world’s cameras and publicly called out their new young prime minister. Youth want to be heard, not just seen’, they chanted, each holding up at least one placard that both hid their face and showed one of their demands. …Trudeau did not make time while here to meet the youth delegation, despite repeated requests. The resulting complaint from the 20-somethings on Young and Future Generations Day mocked Trudeau’s proclivity for selfies — hence the slogan.”

Connors notes, “We requested a meeting with Trudeau, not only because he’s our Prime Minister, but also because he’s the Minister of Youth. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much of a response. Part of our messaging going forward is on the importance of listening to youth. We’ve found that a lot of the politicians love the idea of taking their photos with us and having us at the conference—almost as a token—but not actually listening to our voices.”

She has also highlighted, “The general feeling is that [Trudeau’s] statements on climate change were very vague. He hasn’t shown any concrete ways that he’s actually moving away from the inadequate promises and targets of Harper’s government.” Unfortunately, as the CBC article reports, “Canada’s main negotiators — the same under both governments — have been freed somewhat of what must have been restrictive instructions under Harper, but they are, in ways, still living in its shadow.”

In terms of the Canadian Youth Delegation’s demands, the Trudeau government has:

  • not committed to zero emissions by 2050, nor has it proposed ambitious near term targets

  • promised to end subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, but has not set a deadline to implement that pledge

  • not agreed to freeze the expansion of the tar sands, but rather praised Alberta’s climate plan to increase tar sands production by more than 40 per cent

  • promoted false solutions at COP21 such as carbon markets and carbon capture and storage

  • not supported Indigenous and community-led renewable energy projects

  • promised a fraction of our fair share to a climate justice fund ($2.65 billion over five years rather than $4 billion a year)

  • not promised to exceed current commitments to resettling refugees, despite the United Nations saying there will be “substantial population displacements” due to climate change in the coming years.

Yesterday (Dec. 5), negotiators adopted a 48-page draft climate agreement that environment and foreign ministers will work on this coming week.

The heavily bracketed text does not:

  • resolve the demand for differing obligations and expectations of rich and poor countries

  • make country-specific climate emission pledges legally binding

  • include the rights of Indigenous peoples in the operative text

  • keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius (it would allow for a 2.7 to 3.5 degrees Celsius increase)

Indigenous Environmental Network executive director Tom Goldtooth has commented, “We are here in Paris to tell the world that not only will the anticipated Paris Accord not address climate change, it will make it worse because it will promote false solutions and not keep fossil fuels from being extracted and burned. The Paris COP21 is not about reaching a legally binding agreement on cutting greenhouse gases. In fact, the Paris Accord may turn out to be a crime against humanity and Mother Earth.” Bolivian activist Pablo Solon has stated, “To put it in other terms, [this agreement could] burn the planet.”

The talks are expected to conclude on Friday Dec. 11.

Further reading
Report from the ground at COP21: The first few days (Dec. 2, 2015 blog by Diane Connors)